Ten years after the Cicero riots came an award-winning film called The City of Necessity.

Mid-century Chicago was far from a harmonious place. Through the first half of the century, thousands of African-Americans moved into the city from the South. Whites, often angrily, resisted the changing demographics, crassly referring to local neighborhoods as "good" (white), "going" (changing), or "gone" (black). That kind of attitude was demonstrated perhaps at its worst when thousands of rioters in 1951 attempted to stop a black family from moving into a new apartment in the industrial suburb of Cicero. 

Ten years after the Cicero riots came an award-winning documentary called The City of Necessity, produced cooperatively by the Chicago City Missionary Society. In it, we see a Chicago that, despite a spree of new public housing construction, was far from solving its persistent poverty and racial tensions.

Earlier this week, Chicago architecture writer Lee Bey uncovered the 52-year old documentary on his WBEZ blog, pointing out a quote in the film from then-Mayor Richard J. Daley in which (astoundingly) he says, "we have no ghetto and we have no negro ghetto." The documentary, ripe with devastating imagery from Chicago's impoverished African-American communities and its mostly substandard housing, poignantly cuts to a girl on a swing that appears ready to bring down the doorway holding it up as Daley finishes his blunt, and clearly untrue statement.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. "Gift Horse"—a skeletal sculpture of a horse by artist Hans Haacke—debuted on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square in 2015.
    Design

    What To Do With Baltimore's Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?

    Put them to work, Trafalgar Square style.

  2. POV

    Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident

    The catastrophic fire that killed at least 80 in London was the inevitable byproduct of an ideology that vilified the poor.

  3. Times Square, 1970.
    Life

    The New York That Belonged to the City

    Hyper-gentrification turned renegade Manhattan into plasticine playground. Can the city find its soul again?

  4. New public notice signs from Atlanta's Department of City Planning.
    Design

    Atlanta's Planning Department Makeover

    A new seal, a new name, and most importantly, new signs that people will actually read.

  5. Maps

    This Guy's Never Met a Map He Didn't Want to Fix

    Just not always for the better: "I've deliberately designed maps that are deliberately horrible to look at, and succeeded."